Thursday, July 16, 2015

The world lost a mensch.


My old friend, Seymour Serebnick, just passed away.  I loved his boundless curiosity and his deep generosity of spirit.  He knew of my love of Disney and was always finding me rare surprises.  And he and I loved to talk about the law.  He's in my heart, and his family is in my thoughts.

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Just a couple of thoughts on ASARCO.

I think that the dissent was closer to being right than the majority opinion was (of course I think so:  I was one of four folks on this amicus brief), and that Congress should fix the problem by adopting the test that we proposed in our brief (fees for substantially prevailing).  The majority opinion will tempt parties who like objecting to fees for strategic reasons to do more of these types of objections; professionals may respond by increasing their base rates (or increasing them more rapidly) to take the possibility of objections (and unreimbursed defenses) into account; and a court's only likely response is to consider whether really obviously strategic-only objections were actually frivolous.  On the other hand, there's still the "you don't object to mine, and I won't object to yours" behavior, so maybe the opinion won't have as drastic an effect as I fear.

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

BRAVO, Team DRC-Hubo @UNLV!

Taken directly from our announcement--couldn't have written it better myself:
On behalf of Dean Rama Venkat, the Howard R. Hughes College of Engineering is proud to announce that our team DRC-Hubo @UNLV finished in eighth place among the world’s best robotics teams competing in the 2015 U.S. Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) Challenge Finals, just a few points below universities such as Carnegie Melon and MIT.
Launched in response to a humanitarian need that became glaringly clear during the nuclear disaster in Fukushima, Japan, in 2011, the DARPA Robotics Challenge consisted of three increasingly demanding competitions over two years. The goal was to accelerate progress in robotics and hasten the day when robots can enter areas too dangerous for humans and mitigate the impacts of natural or man-made disasters.

UNLV’s team, led by Lincy Professor of Unmanned Autonomous Systems, Paul Oh, performed six of eight tasks in 57 minutes and 41 seconds, giving the team the eighth place spot. The team performed better than competitors from Lockheed Martin, Virginia Tech, University of California, Los Angeles, Seoul National University and more. Joining UNLV on the team are students and one professor from Kookmin University in Seoul, Korea, as well as professionals from robotics company Praxis Aerospace.

Driving was arguably the most challenging task in the completion, but Oh hoped that UNLV would emerge as a leader in that area.  Metal Robot drove in less than 60 seconds, ranking among the top teams in the competition.

In case you missed it, please check out this UNLV slideshow, highlighting some of the most exciting aspects of the competition.  

During the competition, Oh and members of the team were featured in Computer World, U.S. News & World Report, Armed with Science(the U.S. Department of Defense science blog) and Popular Science.

You can see a play by play of the event on the COE Facebook and Twitter feeds.

We also worked with several other media outlets on larger projects that will be aired in the near future. Outlets include NOVA on PBS, The Economist, GQ Magazine, Daily Planet/Discovery Channel Canada,  Inside Unmanned Aerial Systems Magazine,  RAI Italian National TV, Robo Nation TV, Tech Biz Geeks blog and more.

Oh and team members also will be featured in several documentaries including “My Life with a Robot,” by French company Belotta films, a project by screenwriter Michael Bacall and a move production by To the Stars media.

Thousands of spectators visited the two-day competition, which also featured a large technology exposition. UNLV’s College of Engineering had a booth in this expo, attracting hundreds of people to follow us on social media, as well as hundreds of prospective students who filled out cards seeking additional information on our robotics programs.

Overall, it’s an epic success for our Engineering Program to be featured with the likes of Carnegie Melon, MIT, Lockheed Martin and more. We couldn’t be more proud of our team.

Saturday, May 30, 2015

Wishing Professor Paul Oh and his team the best of luck in the DARPA Robotics Challenge!

Not that very long ago, UNLV was lucky enough to persuade Professor Paul Oh to join our faculty.  He and his team are about to compete in the DARPA Robotics Challenge, and I'm rooting for Hubo (now the "Metal Rebel") to win.

I've been fascinated by Hubo ever since Jinger Zeng of Skyworks Aerial Systems told me about how amazing Professor Oh was and how well he mentors his students.

Here's an excerpt from UNLV's official announcement about the finals:
The Howard R. Hughes College of Engineering robotics team is just a week away from the DARPA Robotics Challenge (DRC) June 5-6 at the Fairplex in Pomona, California.  UNLV will compete against 24 of the world’s top universities and research agencies in an attempt to show how robots could assist first responders in disaster relief – with millions in prize money on the line.  

UNLV’s “Metal Rebel” – a 5 ft. 5 in., 175-pound humanoid robot - will test its mettle against the likes of MIT, NASA and Lockheed Martin in simulated disaster courses where it may have to:
·       Drive a vehicle
·       Climb stairs
·       Traverse rocky and/or debris-filled terrain
·       Turn valves and use power tools

Our student/faculty team is led by Dr. Paul Oh, Lincy Professor for Unmanned Aerial Systems and a renowned expert in robotics and autonomous systems. Oh is a former program director for robotics at the National Science Foundation and is helping UNLV and Nevada become a national leader in the booming autonomous systems industry.

We'd love to see you in Pomona cheering for our team in the grandstands and representing UNLV in scarlet and gray, but if you can't make it out to Pomona, we'd still appreciate your support.

Teams will compete both Friday (6/5) and Saturday (6/6), and the competition will stream live at roboticschallenge.org The competition schedule will be finalized just before the competition, and we’ll follow with details next Thursday afternoon on when to you can see Team UNLV in action.

Monday, May 04, 2015

The Dave Goldbergs of the world may be rare, but they're out there.

Everything I've read about Dave Goldberg, including this New York Times obituary, indicates that he was an extraordinary person, and my heart goes out to his family.  Equal relationships should be the norm, but I hear that they're not.  The marriages and partnerships of my friends sure seem equal, and maybe that's an artifact of the fact that many of us "partnered up" later in life, after we knew who we were and what we wanted in a mate.  But Victor and Jeff, Whitney and Beth, Cathy and Laura, Nettie and Luc, Ted and Amy, and many of my other friends evince a love and a respect that leaves both people in the couple feeling supported and nurtured.

And I sure lucked out with my Jeff:  he's spurred me on, moved (three times!) for me (and taken two extra bar exams in the process), given me useful criticism and, as much as anyone can with me, tried to keep my ego within normal limits--all with good humor and wise advice.  I can't imagine my life without him, which is why I feel for Sheryl Sandberg and their children.

Friday, May 01, 2015

Best managerial advice ever (UPDATED).

There's a great article by Paula Krebs in this week's Chronicle of Higher Education's Vitae section (here).  In it, she talks about the importance of working on difficult issues by first imagining why the person sitting across the table from you has formed her views.  The idea of assuming that the other party to a negotiation has principled reasons for her position is a good way to see any difficult issue as an issue to be solved collaboratively.

Here's my favorite quote from her essay:
Since transitioning out of the faculty and into administration, I've had to work hard to learn how to shut up and listen.  My job, I've discovered, isn't to solve the problems.  It's to understand them and then work with the people affected to come up with ways to solve the problems.
Every time I have tried to solve a problem when it's presented to me, I've created more problems.  So I'm learning to talk to more people, to ask more questions, to listen to the answers.
That's darn good advice for us all.

UPDATE (5/4/15):  This post also gives good advice, as does this article.